Fulham’s preparations for their return to the Premier League began with an entertaining 4-2 victory over League Two Crawley Town on a glorious afternoon at Motspur Park.
Both Slavisa Jokanovic and Harry Kewell opted to field different elevens in each half of this behind-cloors-doors friendly as both sides began their busy summer schedule. Fulham’s starting line-up had a youthful look to it, with only Cyrus Christie, Ryan Sessegnon, Denis Odoi, Stefan Johansen and Aboubakar Kamara included from last season’s regular starters. The home side enjoyed most of the early possession, but the game was played at a laboured pace due to the sweltering heat.
The visitors, who included former Fulham midfielder Rob Milson as a trialist, scored from their first real attack in the ninth minute. Mark Randall flighted a lovely ball over the Fulham defence and Ollie Palmer produced an impressive finish from the edge of the box. Palmer might have added a second when he curled a brilliant free-kick around the wall from 25 yards out, but Marek Rodak made a superb reaction save to prevent Fulham from falling further behind.
The Whites continued to probe, with Johansen becoming more influential in the middle of the park, and it was no surprise when the Norwegian captain played a pivotal role in Fulham’s equaliser. Johansen, wearing the captain’s armband in the first half, played an intelligent ball into Mattias Kait and the Estonian international turned brilliantly away from the attentions of a couple of Crawley defenders to place his finish beautifully beyond Glenn Morris from fifteen yards out.
Morris then made a couple of smart saves from Kait and Kamara to prevent Fulham snatching a half-time lead. Jokanovic’s second half eleven had a much more familiar look to it with Tim Ream, Tom Cairney, Floyd Ayite, Neeskens Kebano and Rui Fonte coming off the bench. Ayite wasted little time in making an impression, whipping a brilliant free-kick into the top corner from 22 yards to put Fulham in front five minutes after the interval.
The Premier League side were now beginning to dominate proceedings and play at a higher tempo. Fulham stretched their lead just before the hour mark from a set piece. Tom Cairney’s floated corner was majestically met by Marcelo Djalo, who guided his header perfectly into the corner from ten yards. Jokanovic’s men made it four after 72 minutes, when with the Crawley defence appealing for offside, Kebano sauntered onto an inviting pass from Fonte and left Yusuf Mersin with no chance from ten yards out.
The visitors got a goal back a minute later when Thomas Verheydt capitalised on some confusion in the Fulham defence and impudently lifted an audacious finish over a stranded Taye Ashby-Hammond. The young Fulham goalkeeper then made a brilliant double save to keep out efforts from Brian Galach and then Verheydt. Fulham’s pre-season preparations continue with another friendly against Championship outfit Reading at Aldershot Town next Saturday afternoon.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak (T. Ashby-Hammond 45); Christie (Fossey 45), R. Sessegnon (S. Sessegnon 45), Odoi (Djalo 45), Jenz (Ream 45); O’Riley (Cisse 45), Kait (Fonte 45), Johansen (Cairney 45); de la Torre (Francois 45), Thorsteinsson (Ayite 45), Kamara (Kebano 45).
GOALS: Kait (23), Ayite (50), Djalo (59), Kebano (71).
CRAWLEY TOWN (4-4-2): Morris (Mersin 45); Francomb (Bulman 45), Connolly (Turley 45), Young, Doherty (McNerney 45), Camara (Galach 45), Randall (Nathaniel-George 45), Milsom (Payne 45), Odebayi (Reid 45), Palmer (Grego-Cox 45), Peleon (Verheydt 45).
GOAL: Palmer (9), Verheydt (72).